Clarke hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, born 1914. Originating from a musical family, he examined various instruments, including vibes and trombone, and also composition and music theory, while still in secondary school. As a young person, Clarke played in the groups of Leroy Bradley and Roy Eldridge. He on the road in the Midwest for quite a while with the Jeter-Pillars band, which likewise included bassist Jimmy Blanton and guitarist Charlie Christian. By 1935, Clarke finally moved to New York since most of his work was ther now. He worked for band leaders Edgar Hayes and Lonnie Smith, and there started building his rhythmic theories which would later characterize his commitment to jazz music.
While working in the groups of Edgar Hayes and Roy Eldridge, Clarke started exploring different avenues regarding moving the time-keeping from snare, hi-hat and bass drum to elaborate quarter notes on the ride cymbal, the well known “ding-ding-da-ding” example, which Clarke is frequently credited with imagining.
This new approach fused the bombs (or syncopated accents on the bass drum) created by Jo Jones, while giving room for the left hand to play more syncopated figures. Under Roy Eldridge, a proponent of this style of time keeping, Clarke composed a progression of rudiments for himself to keep the snare and bass drum free while keeping time on the ride cymbal.
One of these exercises includes a bass drum accent right behind a snare drum rim shot. This earned Clarke his epithet, “Klook”, which was another way to say “Klook-mop”, an impersonation of the sound this mix created.
This handle was revered in “Oop Bop Sh’Bam,” recorded by Dizzy Gillespie in 1946 with Clarke on drums, where the scat verse to the bebop tune goes “oop bop sh’bam a klook a mop.”